The Natural Wine Fair 2011 was a big hit with fans of natural wines so naturally everybody has been eagerly awaiting announcements for the dates of the 2012 show. Well then great news – there are 2 natural wine fairs running this year!

The not so good news though is that they’re both on at the same time, a few miles apart in London, and both charge the public £20 a head. While some lucky ones amongst us will get to go to both, the likelihood is many people will have to choose just one.  They’re both open to the general public on the Sunday (20th May). For those of us in the trade, RAW has a trade only day on the Monday and The Real Wine Fair has trade only days on the Monday and Tuesday. Each show is reportedly bigger than last year’s fair so getting round both of them in one day (and getting across London in the middle) will not be easy. So which should you go to?

Why have the organisers of last year’s fair gone their separate ways?

The 2011 natural wine fair was organised by Isabelle Legeron, Master of Wine, and self proclaimed champion of natural wines and their producers, together with a small consortium of UK importers. I’ve already written a piece on my opinion of the fair, that the wines on show were neither the best available nor competitively priced. In fact as all 5 importers stood to benefit from showing only the wines they imported, there was no representation from any independent producer, importer or retailer.

(The organisers of the Real Wine Fair have been in touch since I originally wrote this post, to update me and correct a few misapprehensions, so I’ve now made some ammendments).

I suspect that is why Isabelle has organised her own independent fair this year called RAW, to give her more flexibility and ensure a range of better quality more affordable wines are on show. Ive been told that the two parties couldn’t agree on the best way forward to move on from last year’s Natural Wine Fair so they amicably decided to hold separate fairs this year. While I’m naturally cynical about financial motivation, the organisers of the Real Wine Fair have explained that last year’s fair was not financially motivated and that it actually cost the consortium of importers tens of thousands of pounds each to put on the show.

Coordinating the Real Wine Fare is one of the major members of last year’s consortium, Les Caves de Pyrene, together with another 6 importers/retailers including Vine Trail, Indigo Wines and Roberson. This suggests to me that one or two of last year’s consortium have also dropped out and gone their separate ways this year, perhaps because the majority of wines on show last year came from one or two major members of the consortium and the cost of tens of thousands of pounds was a bit high for promoting natural wines with no financial gain for themselves? These are tough times in the UK and it is a lucky company who can afford to invest this kind of money to support a principle.

RAW is being held at The Old Truman Brewery in Brick Lane, London E1 6QL. The Real Wine Fair is at B1, 6 Victoria House, Southampton Row, London WC1B 4DA. Both are open to the public on Sunday 20th May, both open to trade on the Monday, and the Real Wine Fair open to trade again on the Tuesday.

It’s great to see the movement gathering momentum with two shows this year. That can only be good for natural wines as a whole, and it is clear that the public are becoming more aware and more accepting of them. I just hope that they lift the quality this year. Yes, there were some very good wines there last year, but they were very few and far between. There was also an awful lot of “cider” and “soup”.

I’m a massive fan of natural wines but only the ones that taste like wine! I sat in a natural wine shop in Macon called PUR with the owner Cyril while he ploughed me with several of his wines which were frankly awful, as he waxed lyrical about the time and work that went into them – and that the oxidation of the whites was deliberate! What could I say? They tasted like vegetable soup, but at 15 to 20 Euros a bottle trade, they were a lot more expensive than a tin of Campbells.

Yet you buy a bottle of “cosmic nectar” (according to Oz Clarke) from Domaine Viret in the Rhone, they are completely natural, and beautiful wines in their own right. In fact Philippe Viret has several wines rated in the Rhone Top 100, and his white La Coudee D’Or was voted Best White Wine in the Rhone by food and wine critic Michel Breton. Why can’t we have these wines at one of these two shows? – now we do, Philippe Viret is showing these wines at RAW!

I would like to see a completely open fair where every producer, importer and retailer of natural wines was invited to take part, not fairs organised by importers with only their own wines on show. But in this modern commercial world the chances of that are very slim indeed!

I will be attending both shows as I hope to find an improvement this year as more quality producers will hopefully be attracted as the natural wine movement gathers momentum in the UK. For a wine to be “natural” it doesn’t have to be flabby or semi oxidised, but I fear that was the image generated by last year’s show, as many of the wines were poorly made. This isn’t a phenomena of natural wine, it is a lack of skill and expertise by the winemaker. Let’s show off the good stuff this year and give the general public a genuine reason to switch to drinking great tasting healthy wine.